Gareth Montanarello

Managing Performance Anxiety: Part 2

Updated: Apr 19, 2020

Last week I started a new series about my efforts to conquer the one area of performance that still gives me intense anxiety: playing on my own. I gave a brief rundown of my project and shared some back story so check it out here if you missed it!

What Have I Done?

I gave my first performance of the project this week. I initially intended to play for a faculty member other than my professor, but scheduling difficulties meant that I couldn't set up a time with anyone else. I decided just to use my lesson time as performance #1 instead.

Last week I mentioned two books that I was reading to learn some coping skills: Audition Success by Don Greene and The Audition Process: Anxiety Management and Coping Strategies by Stuart Edward Dunkel. There are a lot of strategies presented in the two books, so I decided to start with something familiar: centering. Centering is a method of developing focus and relaxation that I have been using on and off for the past year. Accurately describing the process here would take too long, but this article summarizes it well.

It's worth mentioning that I made a slight rep adjustment at the last minute. At the time of performance, I was dealing with a lot of hand pain so I substituted the slow movement of Bottesini for the very technical Persichetti. It worked out because I had yet to play that movement for my professor, and playing it saved me from worsening my injury.

A quick video overview of centering from Don Greene:

Performance and Reflection

Filled out the checklist for the first time.

In the hour before my lesson, I went for a walk and did some breathing exercises to release tension. Right before I played I also did some breathing, but I was dumb and forgot to do all the other necessary parts of a successful centering routine. "Forming a clear intention" and "repeat your process cue" were the big two I forgot, and I felt it almost immediately. For the first half of the movement, I felt like I was floating without musical direction until I finally got back on track at the start of the second half, and I also made some other foolish errors out of a lack of focus.

I also filled out my checklist for the time first time. It was surprisingly hard to accurately rank each question, so I may go through and refine the numbering system. To be determined...

Updated Performance Anxiety Checklist

Overall, I am happy with how I played. This movement is still fairly new to me, but here are the things I thought I did well:

  • Tone production

  • Timing and expressivity once I got back on track

  • I kept going

  • Kept bowings, fingerings consistent from practice time

Things to do better next time:

  • Get a cue word (easy fix)

  • Trust myself more

  • Remember to get centered and grounded before I play

  • Find ways to better control breathing

Something I need to keep reminding myself is that as with any other skill, effective anxiety management takes practice and dedication. I keep setting the expectation of instant improvement, but I haven't been nearly as regimented with my coping-skill practice sessions as I have been with my bass practice sessions. I am going to change that by adding anxiety management to my practice logs and by setting aside time each day to work solely on developing new/existing strategies. I also have a solo competition and a recital coming up this semester so I need to start treating this project as part of my preparation.


For next week I am going to continue centering every time I play bass, but I am also going to start working on visualization. Many people have told me this is a powerful technique so we shall see if they are right.

And as always, please consider subscribing to my email list! This is still just part 2 of an 8-part series, so subscribe and you will never miss an update!

Other Parts in This Series:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7


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